Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Oh boy, that’ll be the show

buddy holly

 Dan Ankatell as Buddy in his final performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, during the fateful Winter Dance Party Tour Pete Beck, left, as J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper and Anil Patel as Ritchie Valens

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story

Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company

Garrick Theatre Lichfield


BUDDY has now been touring for twenty five years, celebrating the songs of an artist whose recording career lasted barely two years, but whose music endures some fifty six years after his untimely and tragic death.

A jukebox musical, the two halves mainly comprise his rise to fame and studio work in the first half, and an extended concert sequence in the second.

Dan Ankatell takes the eponymous, demanding, lead role , which requires a performer who can sing, act, play competent electric lead guitar, as well as have a passing resemblance to Buddy Holly.

Angular and enthusiastic, ARevnkatell is credible and lively in the part, ably supported by a large chorus for the big numbers. His confidence grew as the night unfolded, dealing with a faulty guitar connection at one point with an ease that Buddy himself would have smiled at.

The plot fairly thinly joins the dots between the music, but it is the songs which star. They have transcended their late fifties origins to become standards which by a process of cultural osmosis are as fresh now as they were when written. Rock’n’roll aficionados will feel the tradition has been well represented, new generations continue to sign up to the cause.

Among numerous satisfying cameos, Helen Simon delights as Maria Elena, hotter than a desert at midday, and with a convincing Latin accent. Pete Beck marvellously milked the part of the Big Bopper for all it was worth, and Tony Orbell injected some vital energy and pace into the Clear Lake concert sequence as the MC. Dave Hill also made the most of scheming producer Norman Petty .Of the dancers, Sally-Jane Adams consistently caught the eye with her dynamism, brio, and crisp movement.

The Garrick’s stage was packed to capacity by the cast which at its peak numbered more than fifty . A Spartan, but versatile, set which incorporates recording studios, concert halls, radio stations, and living space, provided a fitting sense of occasion, culminating in the theatre stage becoming a concert stage.

There is no secret to this show’s success and longevity - the songs are very strong. Contemporary hits Shout, La Bamba and Johnny B Goode flesh out the Holly numbers, offering variety, shade and musical context.

Musical Director Sheila Pearson does a good job utilising her considerable chorus, providing a new dimension to songs whose original arrangements were quite sparse. Choreographer Maggie Jackson has no shortage of willing dancers whom she manages both to squeeze on stage, and squeeze the best out of.

Veteran Director Lynne Hill is a safe pair of hands for a show like this with an impressive roll call of successful past productions to her name.

Her strengths lie in her technical proficiency and vision for the big set pieces, skills which were pleasingly on display for this accomplished production.

A full opening night house was thrilled by the show during which the “magic programme” winner hailed, improbably , not from Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield or even Clearlake, but Guatemala! “Buddy” runs to Saturday 6th June .

Gary Longden


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